I have a customer that's set on wood front doors with a vertical glass window offset nearer the center of each door, approximately 8" wide by 48" high, with obscured glass. The home has a southern exposure with a bit of an overhanging roof over the doors (2 foot eave, maybe).
I don't have time to make them, but have contacted a millwork shop that will do them. His construction method is as follows: Solid rails/stiles and mahogany ply center panel (two pieces of ply, 1/2" thick glued together to get 1" thick panel). I asked him if the center panel would float and he said no, it would be glued in.
What do you think of this construction method? I would be finishing/installing but I would like to hear other opinions on this construction method. I've already informed the homeowner regarding the maintenance/refinishing that will be needed in the future to maintain the look of the doors.
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor M:
Get a second quote. Based on the questions you asked, I think you know the right answers.
As an option, what is the consensus on fiberglass doors, pre-finished from the factory? How does their finish compare longevity-wise to real wood with premium finish?
I saw some beautiful doors that I think were similar to your description made of solid sapele. The company was close to Charleston, SC.
As long as the glass is cut at least 1/8" less in each direction (1/16" on each edge) it really does not matter if you use space balls or anything else. It does not even matter if you center it, to be honest. And 1/8" is actually overkill, but accommodates any kind of possible wood movement.
A few more notes of interest: Wood moves predominantly with moisture changes. Everything expands or contracts with temperature. No exceptions. And keep in mind that the moisture in wood is also in a symbiotic relationship with temperature. As the moisture heats it also expands - that's why we can sweat out a dent in wood. The moisture alone won't sweat it out; you need to apply heat too.
As to the door construction: in my opinion, you should always construct with an odd number of plies for even distribution of movement.
Panel thickness: Most of the 1 3/4" doors I have made with raised panels have 1 1/2" panels. Flat panels are usually 3/4". If you are using a veneer panel, go through the extra trouble of having (or doing) an Extera (waterproof MDF) panel. Plywood just does not cut it for exterior doors. Ever.
The finish: The absolute best finish for a door with a bad exposure is a teak oil. Tung is a little too thin and mahogany oil will work if you can find it. It takes some serious attention to your customer due to the fact that you need to re-coat at least every 6 months for a couple of years, but I look at this like a chance to solicit new work (and if they see you as so dedicated to customer service that you come out every 6 months to coat their door, they will have more work for you, trust me), and a way to document the process and photo the door as it ages. It looks so much richer after 2 years. This finish will not peel, crack or shed and once you have gotten through the first few years it can be reapplied as needed (usually every two years).
I always give my customers 2 years on the house and then offer to re-coat for my cost thereafter. It has gotten me more business than I can relate, and some customers discover it's not that hard to do, and actually enjoy caring for their doors!